Bundesliga: The Guide To Restart Football?

The first match-day proved encouraging for other leagues, planning to follow the Bundesliga.

Football is back in Germany — albeit without the fans. The Bundesliga is the first of Europe’s major leagues to resume after lockdown. On May 16, the league kicked off with six games; five of which kicked off simultaneously at 14:30 British Summer Time (BST).

Unlike the Premier League where Liverpool ran riot with a twenty five-point lead from Manchester City, Bundesliga has been competitive this season with only four points separating Bayern Munich from Borrusia Dortmund at the top.

The German league’s decision to complete the season in such unprecedented times raised many questions. Much was answered.

The safety measures in place:

The league resumed under the new conditions, as per the 51-page documented guidelines presented by the German Football League (DFL).

For starters, Bundesliga clubs returned to training in small groups at the start of April. They have been in quarantine before the matchday yesterday. Players will only travel from hotels to the training grounds and will be regularly tested for coronavirus. They will not be quarantined for the rest of the season, but to reduce the risk of infection, they are not allowed to meet with family and friends or go shopping.

Teams arrived in several coaches, maintaining social distancing. All games were and will continue to be played behind closed doors with a maximum of 300 people allowed at the stadium (the club’s home stadiums instead of neutral ones). There were no mascots, no pre-match handshakes, or team photos. Everyone except for the active players and on-pitch referees wore face masks and maintained social distancing.

The players lacked fitness, and the games stimulated the feeling of pre-season football. For that very reason, teams were allowed up to five substitutions per match instead of the customary three.

Police were on patrol outside stadiums. Fortunately, their work was cut off due to the fans respecting the lockdown rules.

Football without the 12th man:

“And it was like Manchester City at the Etihad with no fans.”

The first match-day proved encouraging for other leagues, planning to follow the Bundesliga.

The league restarted with one of the biggest games of the season: Borrusia Dortmund hosting local rivals, FC Shalka 04. As assumed, the atmosphere was quiet without the fans. But contrary to beliefs, the lack of atmosphere didn’t hinder the excitement of the games as much.

The crowdless return of football is better than having no football.

Although the stadiums were empty, football fanatics from all over the world certainly enjoyed the games passionately. Fans from other leagues, such as Serie A, Premier League tuned as well.

Bundesliga: ‘The guinea pig for the other leagues’

Germany’s top two divisions are the first to resume as the coronavirus continues to loom worldwide. Other leagues and sports will be observing how German football continues to operate in such dire times. Whether they operate successfully or otherwise, they act as ‘the guinea pig for the other leagues.’

By returning first, this is as equally an opportunity as it is a problem for the Bundesliga. For many years, the Premier League has arguably been the most successful in the world of football. This can be the head-start that the German football needed to change the topography of football leagues.

If the Bundesliga ‘wins’ in these obstacles, this would mean a win for all other leagues. But a successful outcome for the Bundesliga might not translate in success for other leagues. There are many variables at play to restart football.

It is not a coincidence that the Bundesliga is the first league back. The backbone of the restart seems rooted in the league’s unified solidarity, optimism, vision, and leadership. Political support is core. And Germany’s outstanding health care system has especially allowed them to gamble towards the hope of triumph.

Naturally, many people don’t agree with that consensus, that they believe that the recommence of football has been too soon. A survey carried out by ARD Startseite, a German news broadcaster, reveals that 56% of people voted against the restart of football in Germany. And the majority of the fan groups believe that the Bundesliga’s urgency to restart is down to only one motivation: money.

From one perspective, it couldn’t be more right. The football industry collects revenue through season tickets, sponsors, television deals, corporate partners, and much more. The cancellation of the season would mean graver loss than the pause. Thus, the restart would mitigate away from some portion of the loss.

Football players also have a huge say on the matter of continuing to play during such risky times. As seen from many of the Premier League’s players, who remain skeptical towards a restart, there needs to be a consensus to play.

Almost all Bundesliga players have shown the desire to complete the season. And for those who don’t want to, Borussia Dortmund has given them the right to not play.

“If anyone has any doubts or is scared about returning to the pitch, we will give them absolute freedom to do what they want,” Michael Zorc, Dortmund’s sporting director told.

“My impression is that everyone wants to play football again.”

The looming uncertainties:

The uncertainty of if and when a player or club’s staff is tested positive remains. How the league deals with that remains to be seen although there are guidelines planned for such times as well.

The final results from ‘opening’ weekend:

Against local rivals FC Shalke 04, the game of the weekend was won comfortably by Borrusia Dortmund with the final score of four nil. Dortmund close the gap to one point with a game in hand against title favourite, Bayern Munich. Bayern Munich will be facing FC Union Berlin on May 17.

The rest of the scoreline from the ‘opening’ weekend were as follows:

Augsburg vs Wolfsberg: 1–2

Fortuna Dusselborg vs SC Paderborn 07: 0–0

Hoffenheim vs Hertha BSC: 0–3

Rb Leipzig vs Freiburg: 1–1

Eintracht Frankfurt vs Borusia Munchengladbach: 1–3

The continuation of the Bundesliga season has begun. Serie A and Premier League are poised to join them in upcoming months. This head start will prove vital for the football leagues to complete the season while minimising the risks of transmission of the virus.